Episode 2: The Process

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Arrest, trial and execution of Addicks

Arie Addicks was a wanted man. He and his group had been betrayed by a friend, a fellow AJC member named Buter, and because of this, his father was dead. His friends organised for him to flee the Netherlands. He refused, however, because he was worried about his mother’s safety and wanted to avenge his father’s death.

Whilst Arie was in hiding, Buter informed the authorities about a meeting that was planned to take place on 16 September, 1941, on the corner of the Van Reigersbergenstraat and the Hugo de Grootkade. It would involve Addicks, Zwanenburg, Douma and others. With this information in the hands of the authorities, Addicks walked into a trap. He was again able to escape, this time pulling out a pistol and shooting and killing a German officer in the process of running away. Although evading capture for a short time, he was eventually caught and, after a hasty trial, he was executed on 7 October, 1941.

Arie Addicks’ last letter written from his cell.  Versetzmuseum Amsterdam

Arie Addicks’ last letter written from his cell. Versetzmuseum Amsterdam

Diving under and eventual arrests of others

Although Addicks had been able to escape on 16 September, the others were not so lucky and several people, including Jan Zwanenburg and Rob Douma, were taken from their houses that night and brought to the dreaded Euterpestraat police facility.

Following this, others in the Addicks group went into hiding, or ‘dived-under’. However, whilst some were betrayed, others were naive enough to poke their heads above the surface, for just long enough that the authorities could swoop down upon them.  In the ensuing weeks and months, almost the entire Addicks group was rolled up and put out of action.

After some time, Jan Zwanenburg, Rob Douma and others were transported from their prison at the Weteringschans to one on the Amstelveenseweg. As they passed through town, and were able to catch what may be their last glimpses of the outside world for a long time, their attention was drawn to one particular poster hanging all over the place. Just like the posters that they and their friends had plastered around town in defiance of the regime, during the summer of 1940, this poster was on walls, posts and doors. It was an official announcement. At a traffic junction, the van stopped long enough for them to read what was written on it. It stated:

“The Dutch national A.T. Addicks from Amsterdam has been sentenced to death by a war court of the SS and police for committing an act of violence against a member of the German police and for the forbidden possession of weapons. The sentence has been carried out.”

Arie Addicks’ death being announced. ( Image Bank WW2 - NIOD )

Arie Addicks’ death being announced. (Image Bank WW2 - NIOD)

Goedhart’s attempted journey to England and arrest on the beach

The Dutch government in exile was based in London. Frans Goedhart was determined to gain passage across the channel, with copies of Het Parool, and to gain a seat at any table of influence he could. He had many ideas, and wanted them heard.

Goedhart was able to secure a spot on an illegal boat to England. Hurrying from Amsterdam to the Hague by train, he made his way to the beach-side town of Scheveningen, where he and fellow members of the resistance waited for the rendezvous in the early hours of 18 January, 1942.

Scheveningen beach after the liberation, with the remnants of the Atlantic Wall defences.

Scheveningen beach after the liberation, with the remnants of the Atlantic Wall defences.

On the beach, in the freezing, icy wind, a small group that included Goedhart made their way down to a jetty, and waited for a boat. It did not come. Fearing German patrols of the beach, Goedhart and a couple of others in the group took refuge in a bunker.

Sitting silently in the bunker, Goedhart heard footsteps outside. They hoped and prayed that it was just the sound of the patrol guards changing shifts. But suddenly, from outside, the dreaded shouts of ‘Heraus!’ bellowed forth, and Goedhart was arrested. He tried to hastily bury his pocket book, containing extremely sensitive and incriminating intelligence about Het Parool, including names and addresses of people involved. It was, however, soon discovered.

Using information gathered from his arrest, more arrests were made around the country, including in Zandvoort and the Hague. During interrogations, it became clear that the police had been tracking them for some time, and were almost fully aware of everything they had been doing.

Eventually 23 people in this case were charged with crimes against the state and would spend the next year in various concentration camps, awaiting trial. These were Frans Goedhart, Rob Douma, Jan Zwanenburg, Wim Gertenbach, Jaap Melkman, Willem de Tello, Wibo Lans, Nico Snijders, Ijs de Jong, Piet Paap, Jo van Leeuwen, Lou Gerrese, Herman Meinardi, Bertus Rima, Paul Vink, Frans Robbe, J.B. Varwijk, Henk Roos, Arie van Soest, Karel Witmond, Jaap Frank, Kees Teeuwsen and Jacob Barzilay.

Correspondence with their families

Over the course of that year, the men were transported between jails and concentration camps in Scheveningen, Amersfoort, Vught, and Utrecht. Throughout, they experienced forced labour, brutal beating, witnessed extreme violence against other inmates and, most predominantly, suffered it all whilst enduring constant, fierce and biting hunger. This hit them all hard. As an example, by December 1941, Rob Douma, a man of around 2m tall, weighed only 40kg.

The men were permitted to write and receive one letter per month from their families. This correspondence was highly censored, and the content provides an interesting contrast to the hardships that they were enduring in reality. After witnessing the brutal murder of a prominent Jewish politician in the camp, Jan Zwanenburg wrote to his family: ‘I want you to know that my health is totally fine, and I hope the same is for you.’ There is no way he would have been allowed to tell them how he really was, emotionally and physically.

Despite these limitations, receiving letters from home must have been the highlight of each month inside the camp. Other than the support they could give each other, there was little else to keep them going.  In his letters home, Zwanenburg constantly asked for information about each member of his family, remembered their birthdays, and eagerly sought any tidbit that would keep him connected to his life outside prison. He dedicated the final section of each letter to his girlfriend, Hennie, reminiscing about happier times they had spent together and dreaming about the possibilities of their future together.

Trial and death sentence

The men were tried by a military court in Utrecht in December, 1942. The trial was held in secret, with the guards sworn to oaths of silence about the proceedings. Historians would later name this Het Eerste Parool Proces, or The First Parool Trial. The 23 men were represented by four German lawyers, appointed to them by the court. Their lawyers were not even allowed to read their case files. Furthermore, over the course of the five days of the trial the prisoners were only allowed to speak with them twice, for a period of, at a maximum, five minutes.

Goedhart would later say that these lawyers behaved towards the judges in the same way that an errand boy would to a director, constantly jumping up, standing to attention and saying “Heil Hitler” and “Jawohl”.

On 18 December, 1942, 17 of the 23 men were sentenced to death, whilst the other six were “abgetrennt”, which meant they would instead be sent back to a concentration camp. This was, apparently, an act of leniency.

Despite the severity of the sentences, the men in the group did not weep or break down. In a poem written in his diary, Rob Douma reflected on this moment, and the bravery displayed:

There we stood, hearing our sentence:

‘Verurteilt zum Tode’ rings through the hall

Controlled and unmoved, we stay standing

No muscle moves, no face turns pale

First and last visit

Up until this point, the only contact the men had had with their families was through their monthly letters. After the trial, however, they were permitted one visit. This must have torn at them. Given they had been in prison for more than a year, they would have constantly longed for their family members and for any connection that would remove them, if only for a moment, from the horrors of their daily lives. Now, finally permitted that chance, they had to also bear their family the news of their fateful sentences. Rob Douma wrote of this internal conflict:

“For fifteen months I haven’t seen my parents, brother or sister. And now for the first time I can receive a visit. I’m happy, but when I think about the fact that in these 8 minutes I have to tell them that I’ve been sentenced to death, I get fear in my heart. Imagine if mother comes, how will I share this with her? I hope that father comes. Thoughts whirl like mists through my head, while I walk restlessly around my cell.”

Fates diverged

On 4 February, 1943, the seventeen men given the death sentence were called together, and thirteen of their names were read out. They were told that they would be boarding a bus the following morning. To where, and to what end, they did not know.

Of the remaining four - those whose names were not read out - three were fairly small-scale participants in Het Parool operations. The other one, however, stood as a glaring omission. Frans Goedhart would not be getting on that bus. This puzzled everyone, as he was the ringleader, and would surely be among those due to be executed. So, if he was not getting on the bus, did that mean a reprieve for those who were?

That night, the men gathered together, and an older one among them, Wibo Lans, stood up and recited a text from a renowned socialist author, Multatuli. There was a feeling of hope in many of them still; hope that perhaps the next day, 5 February, 1943, they would avoid the firing squad and be sent to prison in Germany instead.

Prisoners in Vught concentration camp listening to a fellow inmate giving a concert.  Concert in Vught Blok 2  watercolour by Arie Emens, ( Image Bank WW2 - Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught - Arie Emens)

Prisoners in Vught concentration camp listening to a fellow inmate giving a concert. Concert in Vught Blok 2 watercolour by Arie Emens, (Image Bank WW2 - Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught - Arie Emens)